Inductions of labor are carried out in women for both medically necessary and elective reasons. Induced labor has many benefits and risks. It is important for women considering induction to ensure that they are fully informed in order to help allow them to make an educated decision regarding their care.
What is induced labor?
Induced labor is a method of artificially beginning and maintaining labor before the woman’s body begins labor naturally. The ultimate goal of inducing labor is to deliver the baby soon after. Augmentation of labor (speeding up labor) is nearly identical to induced labor, except that it is done after labor has naturally began on its own.
How is an induction of labor performed?
There are many ways labor may be induced. Medications such as pitocin, cytotec, or cervidil may be used, or a more natural method such as a foley catheter or laminaria may be used.
Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin (a hormone that helps start and maintain labor) is an intravenous medication administered during inductions. Pitocin causes very intense and powerful contractions, thus accounting for its use in inductions.
Drugs such as cytotec or cervidil may be inserted into the mother’s vagina to help encourage dilation and effacement of the cervix. Cytotec is not approved by the FDA for use in inducing labor and is intended for the treatment of stomach ulcers, however, it is commonly used by many physicians for induction of labor.
What are some reasons and induction of labor may be needed?
There are many medical reasons that may make an induction of labor necessary, for both the safety and health of herself and her unborn baby. Conditions such as preeclampsia (also known as toxemia) can be deadly for both mother and child and the only way to resolve it is with the delivery of the baby. Other conditions, such as a severe skin rash known as PUPPS (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy), high blood pressure, uterine infection, or intrauterine growth restriction may make an induction of labor both necessary and desirable.
Other times, women and physicians may choose to induce for elective reasons, such as scheduling (either on the part of the patient or the physician), an eagerness to meet the baby, or simply a desire to be done with the pregnancy.
What are the advantages of an induction of labor?
An induction of labor is easier on both the patient and physician’s schedule. The woman knows what day she is going to have her baby and it may relieve a lot of anxiety regarding when labor will begin.
An induction may help solve or treat medical problems caused by the pregnancy. An induction may be lifesaving for the mother and baby depending on the condition that prompted the induction. In some cases, induction is safer than continuing the pregnancy.
An induction may help a woman recover from the discomforts and pains of pregnancy sooner than waiting it out for an unknown amount of days and weeks until labor naturally starts.
What are the disadvantages of an induction of labor?
If an induction is performed before the body is ready (meaning the cervix has already begun to dilate and efface significantly and the baby is in a good position for birth) then the induction has a high likelihood of failing and resulting in a cesarean section.
An induction may increase the risk of fetal distress in the baby and has been known to contribute to umbilical cord problems. In addition, induction can be quite aggressive and lead to over stimulation of the uterus, and uterine rupture, a life-threatening condition for both the mother and baby in which a cesarean must be performed.
Typically, women having their labors induced are required to have an IV in labor, and remain on fetal monitors, either external or internal. The IV and monitors may greatly restrict a woman’s movement and this restriction is counterproductive to healthy, normal labor progression.
The induction process can be long and incredibly time consuming, which may leave the mother too tired to actively engage herself in labor and delivery.
The contractions produced by an artificially induced labor are often much more painful and intense than the contractions produced by a naturally started and maintained labor. This may exhaust and tired the mother much more quickly, as well as increase the likelihood that she may want pain medications in labor.
“ACOG Education Pamphlet AP154 — Labor Induction.” American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
Johnson, Robert V. Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year. New York: W. Morrow and, 1994. Print.Book